London — The Chilcot Inquiry — the latest official British government hearings on how this island nation became engaged in the Iraq War — began here two weeks ago and is predicted to continue for a year. There are West End plays which would envy that sort of guaranteed run and many a TV program could do with some of the plot ingredients to which citizen viewers are now being exposed.
Sir John Chilcot is described as “a Whitehall mandarin,” which is Brit-speak for a veteran political insider. He is a Cambridge-educated civil servant with a background in police and security issues. “No one is on trial. We cannot determine guilt or innocence,” said Sir John when the process began. But people called to testify have been offered immunity from prosecution. The other members of the Inquiry committee are equally esteemed and none appear to have a vested interest in media grand standing, so who called this Inquiry? And why now? Would Shakespeare come back to have a go at writing up this intrigue? Oh, and then there is the secret factor.
According to Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch and HUMAN EVENTS contributor, “It was very strange of the Government to try to keep these proceedings a secret. Whatever one thinks of the Iraq conflict, the purpose of the Chilcot Report was to put public misgivings to rest. That was never going to happen with the inquiry held in secret, and although public pressure has now forced a degree of openness, people will continue to harbor suspicions about the parts that are kept from us.”
True on all counts. There was — arguably — more anti Iraq war activity in Britain prior to the Shock and Awe nightly specials we watched in the U.S. Much was made of Tony Blair’s decision to throw in his lot with Dubya. This resulted in not a few editorials and cartoons depicting Blair as “Bush’s Poodle.”
Steve Richards of The Independent newspaper recently offered up a plausible explanation of the former Prime Minster’s thought processes as they are being peeled away by the Inquiry. According to Richards, Blair recalled Reagan’s snub of Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock (discovered to have borrowed liberally from the speeches of others), so Blair determined that when he was the PM (which he believed was inevitable), he would perform whatever political and philosophical gymnastics were required to stay close to any U.S. President.
Many wondered how Blair went from his free and easy association with Clinton to bonding with the evangelical neocon Bush. Note that after he stepped down as PM, Blair publicly converted to Catholicism to join his wife’s church, of which he was long rumored to be a virtual member anyway, and now operates a religious foundation (see the Guardian article contest as described later).
Richards asserts that nothing was going to stop Blair from being seen as an equal power player on the world stage, so he did whatever it took to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with whoever occupied The White House. Alas, the costly display of ego got him labeled back then as a lap dog, and now Blair is being portrayed in political cartoons as a Pinocchio figure with a long missile for a nose. There are actual calls for him to be tried as a war criminal, made more imperative as a mounting number of bodies are sent home from Afghanistan for burial. The images are psychologically transferable between the fields of battle.
Some speculate that the Chilcot Inquiry kept Blair from becoming the first “President of Europe.” The Lisbon Treaty went into effect last week. Others say he lost interest and backed off when it became obvious there were actually administrative duties required by the presidential job. The left leaning Guardian newspaper has just announced a prize for anyone who can untangle the financial structures which Tony Blair has developed to suck money in from a variety of sources. Check out the chart. These all hint at sophisticated advice supplied by international tax mandarins.
One does wonder if the current Prime Minster Gordon Brown (who was forced to live in Tony Blair’s shadow for a decade and is not doing well as his successor) is terribly torn about the Chilcot Show going public. Could it be that he enjoys the idea of having Blair’s reputation taken down a peg or two? It is a rather delicious conspiratorial idea.
So far, the Chilcot Inquiry testimony has included speculation that the UK did not consider regime change before 9-11, but noted that Blair & Co were uneasy about the failure of containment policies and sanctions against Saddam. Witnesses suggest Blair and Bush both knew the WMD were long gone from Iraq (not that it didn’t exist — an important distinction). It has been said that the Bush team started asking for the Brits to consider joining in the Iraq invasion two years before the pre-emptive strike took place. This plays into the Revenge for Threats Against Daddy motivation on the part of Bush.
Of course, we all know that the best British scripts deal with mysterious deaths. In 2003, Dr. David Kelly — a Ministry of Defense adviser — was forced to testify before Lord Hutton’s Iraq War Inquiry. He was characterized by the press back then as the British “Deep Throat” who claimed the government had “sexed up” a dossier on the amount of WMD in possession of Saddam Hussein & Co. Shortly after his public ordeal, Kelly’s body was found in a green dale near his Oxfordshire home. At the time, his death was deemed a suicide (cuts to his wrist and pain killers in the system) but the Chilcot Inquiry has inspired six doctors to take fresh legal action to open a new inquest into the death of the weapons inspector. They say it was murder.
Then — as if all this was not enough to hook one on the Inquiry — a Saddam Hussein TV Channel turned up a week ago last Friday (the first day of the Sunni Muslim holiday of Eid) on Arab satellite networks, The channel is based in Europe, although it is clearly funded and produced by individuals in the Middle East. Some Sunni viewers in Iraq — as well as some exiles — reported feeling a wave of nostalgia at seeing the former dictator’s face again. Speculation was that this project was designed to test the idea of returning Saddam’s Baath Party to power. This does not represent a glowing endorsement of U.S. and UK foreign policy. HUMAN EVENTS will continue to monitor the Chicot Inquiry as it proceeds. Look for periodic updates as breaking news warrants.